Opinion

Make 'Giving Tuesday' our new patriotic holiday

Eastern Iowa nonprofits host donor drives following Thanksgiving

Mike Swesey (left) and Russ Duccini both of Iowa City, Iowa, pack yogurt cups and other donated food into a cooler at the Food Bank at The Crisis Center of Johnson County in Iowa City, Iowa, on Thursday, August 24, 2017. The center has about $45,000 to raise in order to fund an upcoming expansion which will create room for 8-10 more pallets of food, a repackaging area, a cooler and a 24-hour drop off. The center hopes to break ground in February. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Mike Swesey (left) and Russ Duccini both of Iowa City, Iowa, pack yogurt cups and other donated food into a cooler at the Food Bank at The Crisis Center of Johnson County in Iowa City, Iowa, on Thursday, August 24, 2017. The center has about $45,000 to raise in order to fund an upcoming expansion which will create room for 8-10 more pallets of food, a repackaging area, a cooler and a 24-hour drop off. The center hopes to break ground in February. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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Holiday calendars may already be full, but here’s one more observance to add to your list this year.

Giving Tuesday marks the beginning of the holiday giving season the week following Thanksgiving, much like Black Friday and Cyber Monday mark the beginning of shopping season. More than 300 Iowa organizations are listed as participants, including several Eastern Iowa nonprofits running special donor drives next week.

The Giving Tuesday campaign has grown since 2012 to include nonprofits around the world and has earned the backing of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Organizers estimate the campaign helped generate $177 million in online donations in 2016.

I dream of seeing Giving Tuesday earn a place alongside July 4 as a treasured patriotic celebration. Philanthropy and volunteerism are core American values. We should be proud to live in one of the most prosperous and generous nations on Earth.

Americans’ charitable donations in 2016 totaled $390 billion, according to the Giving USA annual report. The United States fifth in the World Giving Index, and first among countries in Europe and North America.

Even compared with our charitable fellow countrymen, Iowans post some impressive metrics of our own.

More than 30 percent of Iowa residents volunteer, according to a survey by the federal Corporation for National and Community Service, putting Iowa in the top 10 for volunteerism by state. Iowans volunteer at religious organizations most often, followed by youth programs and social services.

I discovered my passion for charitable giving when I worked in nonprofit fundraising and public relations. I saw firsthand the enormous advantages of community organizations, especially compared to the behemoth government bureaucracies I track through my work in journalism and politics.

Governments are good at taking money and doling it back out, but they have failed in many cases to contain costs and demonstrate the effectiveness of their programs. By contrast, I observed smaller nonprofits are better at innovating and quickly adapting to the unique needs of their communities.

President Grover Cleveland famously summarized the conservative case for private charity 130 years ago when he vetoed drought relief funding for farmers.

“The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow citizens in misfortune,” Cleveland wrote in a message to Congress.

Conservatives and libertarians today should take Cleveland’s message as a personal challenge. It falls on us to show that peaceful cooperation can succeed where government has failed.

The small government movement doesn’t argue charity could match what the government spends on major programs like entitlements or public education. Instead, we recognize that more government spending does not always lead to better outcomes, and we think the private sector can often foster better outcomes.

Indulge in your Black Friday specials and Cyber Monday bargains. That’s your right as a freedom-loving capitalist. But sometime after all the doorbusters have been busted, I hope you’ll also find time to do something good this Giving Tuesday.

• Comments: (319) 339-3156; adam.sullivan@thegazette.com

Giving Tuesday campaigns in Eastern Iowa

The Crisis Center of Johnson County. UI Community Credit Union will match donations toward expanding the food bank: www.jccrisiscenter.org/grow/

Domesetic Violence Intervention Program. Celebration fundraiser in Iowa City, pre-register online: http://dvipiowa.org

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United Way of East Central Iowa. Donate or sign up to volunteer for the Read Every Day campaign: Text “AHEAD” to 41444

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